Your health, your way

Your NHS guide to long-term conditions and self care

Your rights at work

If you have a long-term health condition, it's usually a good idea to tell your employer. You're not alone: one in six people of working age has a long-term condition or disability. Continuing to work will help your confidence and is an important way of keeping life going as normally as possible.

The benefits of telling your employer

  • It will be easier to get time off for check-ups and treatment during office hours. 
  • Your employer has a duty to take reasonable steps to help you do your job. For example, if you're a patient with a kidney condition, this may mean allowing you to work flexible hours so you can receive dialysis treatment.
  • Your co-workers will know what to do if you have a medical emergency.
  • Your employer can make small but important changes to make life at work easier for you, such as changing which floor you work on or changing the chair you use.
  • You may be eligible for more sick days than usual.

What to tell or ask your employer

There are good reasons to be honest with your employer about your condition. It's natural to worry that you'll be sacked, made redundant, forced into early retirement, or passed over for promotion or bonuses.

But the law is on your side. It is unlawful for an employer to dismiss you on the grounds of chronic illness or because you need regular treatment. Under the Equality Act 2010, your employer must make reasonable changes to your workspace and working conditions to help you do your job.

Be clear with your employer. Talk to the human resources (personnel) department or your line manager about the impact your condition is likely to have on your ability to work.

If you feel it will be difficult to continue in the same job, consider asking your employer to:

  • change your job or workload
  • move you to lighter or less demanding work
  • train you to do another job
  • allow you to work from home

Talk to your manager and colleagues about how your condition affects you. For some illnesses, such as epilepsy and type 1 diabetes, your co-workers need to know what to do if you have a seizure or a "hypo" (an attack of hypoglycaemia caused by low blood sugar). You don't need to go into details, but give them enough information to understand your illness so they can respond to a crisis without panicking.

If, after talking to your employer, you feel you're not getting the help and support you need, talk to your trade union, occupational health department, human resources adviser or local Citizens Advice Bureau branch for confidential advice on what to do next. There are also disability employment advisers who you can contact through the Job Centre.

Page last reviewed: 07/11/2014

Next review due: 07/11/2016


The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

piggot said on 01 September 2015

I think any large organisation that employs say over 100 employees and has disabled workers on their work force should have a disabled persons "Champion" someone who is able and capable to counsel disabled employees and advise them of their rights at work under the Equality act of 2010. As so many disabled and disadvantaged emploees are unaware of their rights at work and can be taken advantage of during illness and long term disbility.
I have personally experienced this problem at a very low point in my life but fortunately found the strength and courage to look for the right advice I needed outside of my work.
I sincerely hope this suggestion is something that could be implemented in the future as so many unemployed disabled people like myself feel totally worthless and do not want to rely on government handouts.

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saintlygirl1972 said on 27 July 2014

I have asthma -sometimes requiring steroids & antibiotics due tp it giving me chest infections. Once at work, I was coughing my guts up & made an emergency appointment with the Dr. I was put on steroids & given a stronger preventer inhaler. The next day, I was told off for going to the Dr as it may have impacted the team if there was an urgent meeting! I was mortified! I handed the staff a leaflet showing how dangerous asthma attacks can be & educated them - not that I should have had to mind you! XxX

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Bolsheycow said on 13 January 2014

In 1997. I started to get the first symptom's of what I know, no to be Cushing's.Being a good member of staff, I informed my employers straight away. I kept them informed of everything Drs appointment's Hospital visit's. This was accepted to a point, until my condition worsened and I was forced to take time off from work weeks at a time. Because of my absence from work two major things happened. I was put on a major disciplinary review meaning I could get the sack. And I gained a reputation of being a skiver. Nothing that I said or done changed people's attitude .I had been with the company for 14 years but nobody cared especially people who I believed to be my real friends. I became extremely stressed and in the end was forced to leave. I took my ex company to Court. The case never got that far I was offered a cash pay out which I took. What didn't help was that I was diagnosed with being Diabetic. My GP thought I was skiving. It was only after I got sent to Bart's by a new GP did my real diagnoses became known. Because of having Cushing's I have not been able to work since 2002. I'm on DLA. I have to face ATOS who have not got a clue about me or my condition. I have been so battered by my experience that I hardly get upset over peoples nasty remarks about being a skiver. I just don't care what people think anymore.

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